The University of Dotheboys

nicholas-nickleby-sussex-universityThe story so far—impoverished London gentleman Gabriel Webber has gone forth into the world to make his fortune. He is admitted to the renowned learned institution that is the University at Sussex, but soon comes to discover that Vice-Chancellor Wackford Farthing is not all that he seems.

Wackford Farthing’s demeanour was not preposessing. He had a harsh voice and a coarse manner, and a smile bordering closely on the villainous. He believed the week to begin on a Thursday, and the popular prejudice runs in favour of Monday. He appeared ill at ease in his clothes, and as if he were in a perpetual state of astonishment at finding himself able to afford £50,000 suits.

“Is it much farther to the Politics Building, sir?” asked Gabriel.

“About three mile from here,” replied Farthing, “But you needn’t call it a Building down here.” Gabriel coughed, as if he would like to know why. “The fact is, it ain’t a Building,” observed Farthing drily.

“Oh, indeed!” said Gabriel, whom this piece of intelligence much astonished.

“No,” replied the Vice-Chancellor. “We call it a Building to prospective students, because it sounds better, but they don’t know it by that name in these parts. A man may call his Portakabin anything he likes; there’s no act of Parliament against that, I believe?”

“I believe not, sir,” rejoined Gabriel. Wackford Farthing eyed his companion slyly, at the conclusion of this little dialogue, and finding that he had grown thoughtful and appeared in nowise disposed to volunteer any observations – though Farthing could not know this, the early stages of a Pre-Action Letter for Judicial Review were already forming in Gabriel’s mind – contented himself with recalculating his staff’s pensions until the journey’s end.

“Jump out here,” said Farthing, “Hallo there! Registrar – obtain an injunction against those boys in the car-park: they’re talking to each other without written persmission!”

While the Vice-Chancellor was uttering these and other impatient cries, Gabriel had time to observe that the Politics department was housed in a cramped, cold-looking Portakabin, one metre high, seemingly fashioned of cardboard and papier-mâché.

He took half-a-dozen turns up and down the length of the erection [which is an old fashioned word for ‘structure’, as you know perfectly well] in a condition of much agitation and excitement; but, after completing his half-dozenth journey – each length of the cabin being precisely three steps long – mentally resolved that, come what come might, he would endeavour, for a time, to bear whatever wretchedness might be in store for him.

to-be-continuedAll characters appearing in this extract are fictitious, and any resemblance to real Michael Farthings, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A touch more Dickens

"I'm in the sewer photography business." ... "How's business?" ... "It's a load of crap."
“I’m in the business.” … “What business?” … “The sewer photography business.” … “How’s business?” … “It’s a load of crap.”

One of Brighton’s lesser-known tourist attractions is its “award-winning sewer tour – come and visit one of the city’s hidden gems!” For a sum of £12, Southern Water staff will take you deep beneath the city streets, through Victorian tunnels with effluent flowing freely, to see what happens to water after we’ve, erm, passed it.

“We cannot offer toilet facilities,” warns the tour operator’s website. Erm…

Tours take place on a few evenings every summer, starting at an inconspicuous metal door immediately underneath Brighton Pier. I was on the last tour of the season, and as our guide played his company’s promotional video featuring a twee woman in twee 19th-century clothes providing a twee history of the local waterworks, he voiced all of her lines from memory at just the right time. When it finished, he punched the air and said, “Yes! Yes! I don’t have to watch that film again until next year!” Reminds me of something.

After a health and safety briefing (“Sometimes someone puts the wrong thing down a toilet and we have to evacuate the tour”) we set off on our journey underneath some of Brighton’s major sights, finally rejoining the land of the living by climbing out of a manhole in the city centre, and getting some odd looks from passers-by as we did so.

Strange as it sounds, it was SO MUCH FUN and it’s strongly recommended to anyone with an interested in doing strange things. (That’s just you actually. -Ed.) More photos are here if they serve as an inducement!

Sly deal

monopoly-deal-just-say-noIf you’ve not come across Monopoly Deal, a card-game version of everyone’s favourite simulation of capitalism, then come across it and play it. It’s one of the best games ever invented. It’s a fast-paced game of skill and chance, where players might spend several turns assembling vast property empires only to have the tables turn when a foe plays the notorious ‘Deal Breaker’ card. Tremendous fun.

But this isn’t the impression that one would get from reading the game’s reviews on Amazon.

In fact, a reviewer who self-identified as a father of three seems to have confused Monoply Deal with detention under the Terrorism Act.

“After every game someone is always crying. You might prefer to play a game which inflicted physical bullying on your children. Perhaps players might push each other until one of them falls over then everyone else could kick them when they are down.”

After describing the product as a form of child abuse, they went on to award it the above-minimum rating of two stars out of five. At least they’re keeping things in perspective.

A touch more Sussex

After a dodgy period last week where our charming administrators forgot to book a single lecture or seminar room for a 12-week course with 60 participants, Sussex has thankfully risen back to its previous lofty heights.

The Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, statutory regulator of higher education providers, has released his annual statistics. They show that ‘Band E’ universities with between 12,000 and 20,000 students receive, on average, 53 formal complaints per year.

Sussex, not to be outdone on “responding to what is needed by students” (to quote our strategic plan) managed to earn itself a whopping 199 formal complaints, nearly four times the national average, despite sitting very much at the lower end of the range from which the median was calculated – with our population of 12,500.

Of those complainants who then referred their cases to the Adjudicator as a final appeal, 3 were found to be either ‘justified’ or ‘partly justified’, compared to a national average of 1. Glad to see Sussex coming out on top of some statistical rankings at last!


Five of the best

Discover this blog post’s hidden gems
In tonight’s episode, The Adventures of Gabriel Webber was serialised by Charles Dickens. The sewers of Brighton were built by The Victorians and this was a Good Thing. A Hasbro® card game proved a Deal Breaker for a family of four. University of Sussex timetabling department admits: ‘clock stopped on our watch’. This was an Gabrielquotes production.


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